Weatherford Democrat

October 8, 2012

Exhibit highlights Mayan culture

Brian Smith

WEATHERFORD — A new exhibit at the Museum of the Americas focuses on Mayan culture and the beautiful crafts of the indigenous people.

The exhibit, titled The Living Maya, which runs through Dec. 22, focuses on the Mayans of the 20th and 21st century, who still live in small villages. Many of the items focus on textiles from Guatemala and states in the south of Mexico.

Museum curators Harold and Elizabeth Lawrence said the exhibit comes from items they have collected over the years. The museum displays a collection of huipils, women’s blouses, textiles, masks, and other crafts that demonstrate the vitality of these people and their determination to preserve their culture and traditions.

With all the discussion of Mayan people believing the end of the world is coming in December, it seemed the perfect time for an exhibit.

“When you have two of something, you have two of something. When you have three of something, you have a collection,” Elizabeth Lawrence said.

Harold Lawrence said by bringing the exhibit to life, he hopes to “awaken the attention that there are still indigenous people out there who are practicing age old traditions.” The misconception the Mayans “died out” is a fallacy. Mayans still live in smaller groups.

Much of that came from an uprising in Guatemala in the ‘80s and ‘90s where the culture was threatened by government or communist forces. Depending on whether the village was thought to be federal or communist could determine whether you lived or died, Lawrence said.

Many villages were recognized by weaving patterns and styles of their individual clothing, making dressing in public a bit of a challenge.

“You couldn’t wear anything from your village when you were out at a public market for fear of retaliation,” Lawrence said. “Many villages still have a problem with identity as they move into the future.”

Many villagers resorted to wearing American style T-shirts and jeans to avoid being attacked. Finally, by the turn of the century things began to return back to prior ways.

Several items are very recognizable but given a Mayan touch. For example, a traditional Nativity scene has the three wise men bringing firewood and flour to the baby Jesus, which are items villagers would use, Elizabeth Lawrence said.

Many of the traditional clothes are on display but have another purpose. Harold Lawrence pointed out a pair of trousers worn by the Mayans. While the pretty colors are first noticed, if you look closely at the patterns, items such as birds can be found.

“The brightly colored birds are meant to show a man’s virility,” Lawrence said.

The museum, located at 216 Fort Worth Highway in Weatherford, is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.